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Monday, January 10, 2005

Europe Retreats From America's Quagmire

one rarely needs any help to lose a war, which is what the Americans seem to be doing in fine style right now

Rather than look at the accelerating pace of European military withdrawal from Iraq as an unmitigated disaster for George W. Bush's foreign diplomacy, it may be better to examine the phenomenon in light of the interests and capabilities of all parties involved.

To the outside, antiwar-minded observer, the fabulous "Coalition of the Willing" may well seem to be crumbling for all the right reasons; however, while the effect may in the end be the same, it is not as if the governments involved have suddenly been hit by the divine light and espoused noninterventionism. Rather, what is happening now is the unremarkable unfolding of an alliance that was never meant to be permanent and for which real individual influence was never envisioned. Coalition "partners" were little more than set pieces wheeled out to create an impression of legitimacy for America's war.

If this is so – that the crumbling of the coalition is relatively speaking a non-event – then why is it worthy of comment? Perhaps because by examining it we can consider, along with several interesting truths and contradictions, contemporaneous developments that will affect the foreign policies of both America and its European allies throughout the year just beginning, a year that will be crucial in several important regards.

The Current State of Play

As the LA Times reported last week, some 15 allied countries, including major participants like Spain, Poland, and Hungary, "have either scaled back their already relatively small force levels in Iraq, announced pullouts, or withdrawn their troops altogether in the past year, despite the growing strength of the insurgency." However, even though the security situation seems to be deteriorating by the day, the U.S. is not begging these wavering nations to stay.

A quick look at the numbers starts to tell the story. In terms of troop strength, Poland was the U.S.' fourth-biggest ally (after the UK, South Korea, and Italy), contributing 2,400 troops. However, in December the Polish government announced that this total would be cut to 1,700 after the Jan. 30 Iraqi elections and that by the end of the year the Poles might abandon Iraq altogether. Apparently, part of this has to do with a new desire to rebuild relations with war critics and EU heavies France and Germany. A December poll revealed that over 70 percent of Polish citizens are opposed to their troops' presence in Iraq.

Next, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis said on Friday that his country hopes to follow suit and withdraw its 100 soldiers after the upcoming elections – a plan that Defense Minister Gediminas Kirkilas quickly denied.

The last of Hungary's 300 soldiers vacated the premises on Dec. 20. Interestingly enough, the departure was the result of a popular uprising in the parliament, which in November overrode the wishes of Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany and refused to extend the mission.

Perhaps the most serious defection has been that of Holland, one of the few "real" Euro states left standing in Iraq. The country's defense minister, Henk Kamp, stated last month that the 1,350 Dutch troops in Iraq will be gone by the end of March. On Friday, Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad claimed the troops are ready to revolt over low wages – a claim that was instantly attacked by the top brass at Holland's military personnel union.

The Self-Defeating Alliance

Whatever the reason may have been, now that the Dutch are leaving, somebody's going to have to be brought in to protect the Japanese in the south; their 550-man battalion, constitutionally barred from firing their weapons except in self-defense, is in peril. So let's call in the British! After all, it's not as if they're needed to cover for the Americans in the north or anything. And it's not as if any of these "peacekeepers" are supposed to be protecting the Iraqi people they came to liberate, either.

This constant game of allied musical chairs borders on the ridiculous. But it also makes it easier to understand why the U.S. is not exactly devastated by coalition losses. What media reports don't say is that the smaller token forces tend to be kept relatively out of danger, and in some cases have actually had to be protected by U.S. soldiers, who were aware that even small casualties might result in a nation pulling the plug on its mission. In other words, coalition contributions from the smaller countries were always essentially meant to win the propaganda war, not the military one, to promulgate the myth that there was a wide international consensus behind the U.S.-led invasion.

That said, when you also factor in the inevitable differences in training, languages, weapons interoperability issues, etc., it becomes clear that in a tactical, battlefield sense, working with such forces could actually become a liability. The American troops hunkered down for combat are not likely to shed many tears over their departure.

Creating a Coalition for Momentum

We have just touched, indirectly, on the reason why the Bush administration was so desperate to build an alliance in the run-up to the war two years ago, and why are they so disinterested in the crumbling of that alliance now. In the absence of a UN mandate for war, with no demonstrable evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the Sept. 11 attacks on America, and with the general public of almost the entire world dead set against war, even the condescending neocon unilateralists felt the need to give a veneer of consensus to their grand project. To start any war, mass deception and provocation of the people's emotions are inevitably required. And fostering a bandwagon mentality also comes in handy as a means of bludgeoning any moral qualms that might get in the way.

In a word, what the administration needed was to build momentum. Building an apparently large and unified military coalition was the third key ingredient in this recipe. Along with the WMD deceptions and the cynical manipulation of Americans' emotions regarding Saddam's alleged terrorist threat, it gave the U.S. government the requisite energy to unleash war on a state that had never attacked it nor posed any threat to do so.

Building a European coalition was thus vital to the American war drive in Iraq. As U.S. displeasure at Spain's announcement of troop withdrawals following the March 11 terrorist attacks there reveals, maintaining a coalition is to some extent also necessary to prolong a war.

However, one rarely needs any help to lose a war, which is what the Americans seem to be doing in fine style right now. Arguably, at the time of the Spanish tragedy in March there was still a chance for a successful (i.e., not completely humiliating) outcome to the war, but with all the ramped-up resistance efforts and shocking events that have occurred since then – Fallujah Part 1 in April, Abu Ghraib and other abuse scandals, Fallujah Part 2, Mosul, assassinations and bombings everywhere – it has become quite clear that this war will only end in the humiliation of the invaders. Unfortunately for its planners, the Iraqi war has acquired a momentum of its own, one that has no need for allies.

Bad Examples, Big Ideas

In any case, the Bush administration's actions since the war started to go bust indicate that they no longer care about their old allies, or about recruiting new ones. After all, look what happened to Leonid Kuchma. The Ukrainian president, frequently savaged by the U.S. for helping Macedonia defend itself in 2001 and for allegedly selling radar systems to Saddam Hussein, surprisingly offered a relatively large fighting force (1,600 men) to the U.S. war effort from the beginning. While President Bush was appreciative, if Kuchma thought that this move would buy him respect in Washington, he was wrong: a year and a half later, the U.S. and its Euro allies would go on to vocally, politically, and economically back the candidate running against his chosen successor, Viktor Yanukovich. This example of how the U.S. treats its allies is hardly a reassuring one for any leader thinking of aiding the American war effort in Iraq.

Ironically, America's favored candidate in the Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko, had promised during his campaign to bring the troops home – hardly a statement one would expect from a man seeking George Bush's blessings! According to the AFP, almost 50 percent of Ukrainians want the soldiers home immediately. In December, their parliament voted 257-0 in favor of a troop withdrawal. It will be interesting to see what the incoming revolutionary hero actually does; after all, Yushchenko has stressed his major goal as EU integration, and the EU is not big on Iraq.

The Yushchenko case is an eye-opening one, as it shows that the Bush administration really is committed to its goals of freedom-mongering and, even more than that, containing Russia. While both policies are rife with dangers, the U.S. has still been able to gain far more leeway with its European allies regarding such adventures, partially because of interests shared, but also because they are less violent than "democracy-building" in Iraq has been. Indeed, we should not labor under the illusion that the EU intends to be anything less than an empire – albeit a more "benevolent" one than the American. It is as if they are trying to prove that instead of the Soviet empire of ideological coercion, or the American one of foreign military domination, an individual can participate by choice in a culturally-homogenizing, consumer-generating force of statism that seeks perennial expansion and assimilation of all the wild (and economically exploitable) places beyond its borders. And who knows? They might be right.

In any case, with the neocon Russophobe Condoleezza Rice set to replace Colin Powell as secretary of state, we can only expect the frenzy of democracy-building and animosity toward Russia to increase. As American backups, the Europeans will have their hands full in 2005 with fixing or planning to fix elections in all those CIS countries still untamed. And let's face it, if there is democracy to be implanted somewhere, anyone with sense would prefer to do so in less rocky soil than Iraq.

Europe's Headaches at Home

This year will reveal much regarding the limits of Europe's ability and desire to implement its sanitized form of empire. Since there is no force capable of stopping the EU's assimilation drive, it really becomes a question of when, where, and if the union chooses to stop expanding. In this regard, the coming year will present it with several major challenges, ones that will require focus and a certain concentration of political will. Turkey has received the green light to start negotiations on membership on Oct. 3 (something that has already caused friction with new EU member Cyprus), and the still unassimilated nations of the Balkans will also require more attention. But the considerable public ambivalence within the EU states themselves over these matters indicates that endless expansion is not a foregone conclusion. Aspiring imperialists will have to be on their guard at all times.

Indeed, Kosovo alone has the potential to become a major distraction for EU policy and security planners, and NATO 's 17,500 troops there will probably have to be beefed up over the next four to six months. Of course, the ranks are unlikely to be swelled by Americans, who currently make up only around 10 percent of this total. As the UN-administered province swerves drunkenly toward "independence," perhaps dragging south Serbia and Macedonia down with it, riots and attacks on NATO troops will become more and more likely, especially if these forces try to hinder the final stages of Albanian ethnic cleansing of Kosovo's few remaining Serbs. Since they after all inhabit the general neighborhood, the Europeans have the major interest in stabilizing the damned province and finding a "final solution" to an intractable problem that defies any solution (though it is laughable to say, with the conflict-hungry ICG, that Kosovo is as dangerous as Iraq or Afghanistan – unless you happen to be a Serb, of course).

A Real Achievement

In conclusion, keeping troops on the ground in Iraq is no longer in the interests of most European leaders (as if it ever was). Initial presumptions that supporting Bush would pay off in terms of future political or economic favoritism have evaporated in light of the fact that Iraq will not be stabilized anytime soon. There is no money to be made for ordinary foreign companies unless they have some relationship with the American war effort, and even many of these have pulled out because the place is just too dangerous right now.

The U.S. has actually managed in just two short years to decrease the interest European countries have in Iraq and what goes on there. Recall the desperate shuttle diplomacy that transpired in late 2002 and early 2003 between European leaders and the existing Iraqi administration. Then, there was still something to be discussed, things that could be preserved: infrastructure, institutions, business agreements, diplomatic relationships, etc. Now, after almost a full two years of unrelenting warfare, Iraq is no longer recognizable. And no sham election is going to determine who's really in charge there, or why anyone with a choice would want to be sucked further into the quagmire.

Christopher Deliso

Greenspan has 'Driven the World to the Economic Brink."

World On Brink Of Ruin

NEW YORK - Alan Greenspan, that Matador of the Money Supply, the esteemed Impresario of Interest Rates, has suffered precious few slings or arrows over his many years as chairman of the Federal Reserve. Even the White House has had to offer its critiques off the record for fear of roiling the markets or upsetting the chairman's Elvis-in-Vegas-like following. So when the chief economist of one of the world's most prestigious banks calls Greenspan a bum, that's a big deal.

And yesterday it happened. Stephen Roach, the chief economist for Morgan Stanley & Co. (nyse: MWD - news - people ), one of the most powerful investment banks and one of the 50 largest companies in the world, says Greenspan has "driven the world to the economic brink."

Writing in an upcoming issue of Foreign Policy, Roach says that when Greenspan steps down as chairman of the Federal Reserve next year, he will leave behind a record foreign deficit and a generation of Americans with little savings and mountains of debt. Americans, Roach says, are far too dependent on the value of their assets, especially their homes, rather than on income-based savings; they are running a huge current-account deficit; and much of the resulting debt is now held by foreign countries, especially in Asia, which permits low interest rates and entices Americans into more debt.

The "economic brink" line is from the headline of a press release sent by Foreign Policy. In an interview this morning, Roach said, "That's a little extreme." He does admit the nation has prospered on Greenspan's watch. Still, he does not disavow the haymakers he directs at the chairman's chin.

"This is no way to run the global economy," Roach says. So far, the Fed has bucked the odds, Roach adds. But the longer the situation exists, the more chance there is that it will spell danger for the United States and the world.

Roach lays the blame for the peril at Greenspan's door. But first he takes out after his outsized reputation. Greenspan is not responsible for defeating inflation in the 1980s; Paul Volcker, his "tough and courageous predecessor," deserves more of the credit, Roach says. Greenspan's monetary policy deserves some accolades for the 1990s boom, but former President Bill Clinton's fiscal policy and other factors were equally responsible, Roach says. Greenspan may deserve some praise for softening the recession that followed the stock market meltdown, Roach concedes, but the chairman's cure may result in "bigger problems down the road" and "the biggest bubble of all: residential property."

Many have credited Greenspan with saving the world following the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis. Time magazine went so far as to put the gnome of Constitution Avenue on its cover, under the headline "Committee to Save the World." Though it is the case that the world did not end, "In truth, the world weathered the Asian financial storm only to chart increasingly dangerous waters in the years that followed," Roach writes. "Global economic imbalances have intensified dramatically since 1999."

A good chunk of the U.S. prosperity is owed to these imbalances, Roach says: "Asian countries holding enormous stocks of U.S. dollars recycle this cash back into the United States by buying U.S. [Treasury bills]. This process effectively subsidizes U.S. interest rates, thus propping up U.S. asset markets and enticing American consumers into even more debt. Awash in newfound purchasing power, Americans then turn around and buy everything from Chinese-made DVD players to Japanese cars."

While the economist has nothing against DVD players, he does say, "Asia and Europe are increasingly dependent on overly indebted U.S. consumers, while those consumers are increasingly dependent on Asia's interest-rate subsidy. The longer these imbalances persist, the greater the likelihood of a sharp adjustment. A safer world? Not on your life."

Roach even questions Greenspan's political independence. He does not claim the chairman is a partisan Republican, but he does fault him for being a "cheerleader for policies such as tax cuts...that could make the endgame all the more treacherous."

Greenspan is to central banking what J. Edgar Hoover was to fighting crime. He will soon surpass the fondly forgotten William McChesney Martin as the longest-serving Fed chairman. But his term as a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors expires in just over a year from now, and America will have to do without. Roach says, "Greenspan will be a tough act to follow." But the difficulty may not be living up to the chairman's reputation so much as cleaning up his mess.

Dan Ackman, 01.07.05, 9:20 AM ET http://www.forbes.com/business/2005/01/07/cx_da_0107topnews.html

Brooklyn's Streets Proved Meaner, and More Deadly

Soldier Who Survived Iraq Killed Here at Nightclub

(New York-WABC, January 10, 2004) _ — An army sergeant who survived the Iraq war was shot to death Brooklyn. This morning, police are searching for his killer. Eyewitness News reporter Marcus Solis has the story.

As ironic as it is tragic, an army sargeant home on leave from Iraq was able to escape the bullets abroad but Brooklyn's streets proved meaner, and more deadly.

Terrance Balkisson was killed over the weekend at a nightclub, a place he was spending his much earned R and R. now the search is on for his killer.

Eyewitness news reporter Marcus Solis has the srory from East Flatbush.

He stared danger in the eye while in Iraq diffusing land mines and dodging bullets only to be fatally hit by one here at home. He went out with three of his brothers that night expecting to have a good time. Instead his life was cut short.

Veronia Patterson, victim's mother: "I opened the door, and I when I saw him I started screaming."

It happened early yesterday morning inside a club here called Ambiance. Bullets were flying and a half hour after being shot, Terrence Balkissoon was dead. Police saw a gunman opened fire at least 18 times. Balkisson was shot in the head during the dispute, which may have been about a woman.

Witnesses say he possibly bumped into a woman whose male companion then lashed out at Terrance. They say the unidentified man pulled out a gun and shot Terrance twice, fatally wounding him. Terrance's brother Lawrence was shot six times and is at King's County Hospital.

Veronia Patterson: "To me in my heart I thought here was more safe than Iraq, but after what happened I think he was more safe in Iraq. I didn't expect this to happen to him in New York."

In the meantime, friends and relatives are remembering the Army first sergeant who loved his family and the country he moved to when he was 17-years-old.

Marvin Davis, family friend: "Quite, cool, nice. He was a family man, loved to see everybody happy."

The 25-year-old surprised his family and came home for the holidays. He lived in Germany with his wife and kids but had been deployed to Iraq. Reports say he may have been getting ready to go to Indonesia.

There are security tapes from inside this club and police are looking at them. Relatives, of course, are devastated. They can't understand why a man so eager to serve his country and lay his life on the line died like this.

Terrance was scheduled to return to Iraq tomorrow, instead funeral arrangements are being made. Lawrence Balkisson underwent surgery at Kings County Hospital this morning. No arrests have been made in this case and police are still looking for the gunman.

Eyewitness News' Marcus Solis

The Scent of Fear

That's not a back-door draft. It's a brutal, in-your-face draft that's unfairly limited to a small segment of the population. It would make a mockery of the idea of an all-volunteer Army.

The assembly line of carnage in George W. Bush's war in Iraq continues unabated. Nightmares don't last this long, so the death and destruction must be real. You know you're in serious trouble when the politicians and the military brass don't even bother suggesting that there's light at the end of the tunnel. The only thing ahead is a deep and murderous darkness.

With the insurgency becoming both stronger and bolder, and the chances of conducting a legitimate election growing grimmer by the day, a genuine sense of alarm can actually be detected in the reality-resistant hierarchy of the Bush administration.

The unthinkable is getting a tentative purchase in the minds of the staunchest supporters of the war: that under the current circumstances, and given existing troop strengths, the U.S. and its Iraqi allies may not be able to prevail. Military officials are routinely talking about a major U.S. presence in Iraq that will last, at a minimum, into the next decade. That is not what most Americans believed when the Bush crowd so enthusiastically sold this war as a noble adventure that would be short and sweet, and would end with Iraqis tossing garlands of flowers at American troops.

The reality, of course, is that this war is like all wars - fearsomely brutal and tragic. The administration was jolted into the realization of just how badly the war was going by the brazen suicide bombing just a few days before Christmas inside a mess tent of a large and supposedly heavily fortified military base in Mosul. Fourteen American soldiers and four American contractors were among the dead.

Seven American soldiers were killed last Thursday when their Bradley armored personnel carrier hit a roadside bomb in northwestern Baghdad. Two U.S. marines were killed the same day in Anbar.

Brig. Gen. David Rodriguez told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday of an ominous new development in Iraq. "We've noticed in the recent couple of weeks," he said, "that the I.E.D.'s [improvised explosive devices] are all being built more powerfully, with more explosive effort in a smaller number of I.E.D.'s."

Mr. Bush's so-called pre-emptive war, which has already cost so many lives, is being enveloped by the foul and unmistakable odor of failure. That's why the Pentagon is dispatching a retired four-star general, Gary Luck, to Iraq to assess the entire wretched operation. The hope in Washington is that he will pull a rabbit out of a hat. His mission is to review the military's entire Iraq policy, and do it quickly.

I hope, as he is touring the regions in which the U.S. is still using conventional tactics against a guerrilla foe, that he keeps in mind how difficult it is to defeat local insurgencies, and other indigenous forces, as exemplified by such widely varying historical examples as the French experiences in Indochina and Algeria, the American experience in Vietnam, the Israeli experience in Lebanon, and so on.

But even the fortuitously named General Luck will be helpless to straighten anything out in time for the Iraqi elections. The commander of American ground forces in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, made it clear last week that significant areas of four major provinces, which together contain nearly half the population of the entire country, are not safe enough for people to vote.

"Today I would not be in much shape to hold elections in those provinces," said General Metz.

With the war draining the military of the troops needed for commitments worldwide, the Pentagon is being forced to take extraordinary steps to maintain adequate troop strength. A temporary increase of 30,000 soldiers for the Army, already approved by Congress, will most likely be made permanent. The Pentagon is also considering plans to further change the rules about mobilizing members of the National Guard and Reserve. Right now they cannot be called up for more than 24 months of active service. That limit would be scrapped, which would permit the Army to call them up as frequently as required.

That's not a back-door draft. It's a brutal, in-your-face draft that's unfairly limited to a small segment of the population. It would make a mockery of the idea of an all-volunteer Army.

Something's got to give. The nation's locked in a war that's going badly. The military is strained to the breaking point. And it's looking more and more like the amateur hour in the places that are supposed to provide leadership in perilous times - the Pentagon and the White House.

E-mail: bobherb@nytimes.com

'Death Squads': 3 Complimentary Articles


'The Salvador Option'

Negroponte Revisiting The 'Failed' Past, as is This Administrations Norm

The Pentagon may put Special-Forces-led assassination or kidnapping teams in Iraq

Jan. 8 - What to do about the deepening quagmire of Iraq? The
Pentagon’s latest approach is being called "the Salvador option"—and the fact that it is being discussed at all is a measure of just how worried Donald Rumsfeld really is. "What everyone agrees is that we can’t just go on as we are," one senior military officer told NEWSWEEK. "We have to find a way to take the offensive against the insurgents. Right now, we are playing defense. And we are losing."

Last November’s operation in Fallujah, most analysts agree, succeeded less in breaking "the back" of the insurgency—as Marine Gen. John Sattler optimistically declared at the
time—than in spreading it out.

Now, NEWSWEEK has learned, the Pentagon is intensively
debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration’s battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported "nationalist" forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers. Eventually the insurgency was quelled, and many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success—despite the deaths of innocent civilians and the subsequent Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal. (Among the current administration officials who dealt with Central America back then is John Negroponte, who is today the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Under Reagan, he was ambassador to Honduras.)

Following that model, one Pentagon proposal would send Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers, even across the border into Syria, according to military insiders familiar with the discussions. It remains unclear, however, whether this would be a policy of assassination or so-called "snatch" operations, in which the targets are sent to secret facilities for interrogation. The current thinking is that while U.S. Special Forces would lead operations in, say, Syria, activities inside Iraq itself would be carried out by Iraqi paramilitaries, officials tell NEWSWEEK.

Also being debated is which agency within the U.S. government—the Defense department or CIA—would take responsibility for such an operation.

Rumsfeld’s Pentagon has aggressively sought to build up its own
intelligence-gathering and clandestine capability with an operation run by Defense Undersecretary Stephen Cambone. But since the Abu Ghraib interrogations scandal, some military officials are ultra-wary of any operations that could run afoul of the ethics codified in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. That, they argue, is the reason why such covert operations have always been run by the CIA and authorized by a special presidential finding. (In "covert" activity, U.S. personnel operate under cover and the U.S. government will not confirm that it instigated or ordered them into action if they are captured or killed.)

Meanwhile, intensive discussions are taking place inside the Senate Intelligence Committee over the Defense department’s efforts to expand the involvement of U.S. Special Forces personnel in intelligence-gathering missions. Historically, Special Forces’ intelligence gathering has been limited to objectives directly related to upcoming military operations—"preparation of the battlefield," in military lingo. But, according to intelligence and defense officials, some Pentagon civilians for years have sought to expand the use of Special Forces for other intelligence missions.

Pentagon civilians and some Special Forces personnel believe CIA
civilian managers have traditionally been too conservative in planning and executing the kind of undercover missions that Special Forces soldiers believe they can effectively conduct. CIA traditionalists are believed to be adamantly opposed to ceding any authority to the Pentagon. Until now, Pentagon proposals for a capability to send soldiers out on intelligence missions without direct CIA approval or participation have been shot down. But counter-terrorist strike squads, even operating covertly,
could be deemed to fall within the Defense department’s orbit.

The interim government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is said to be
among the most forthright proponents of the Salvador option. Maj.
Gen.Muhammad Abdallah al-Shahwani, director of Iraq’s National Intelligence Service, may have been laying the groundwork for the idea with a series of interviews during the past ten days. Shahwani told the London-based Arabic daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat that the insurgent leadership—he named three former senior figures in the Saddam regime, including Saddam Hussein’s half-brother—were essentially safe across the border in a Syrian sanctuary. "We are certain that they are in Syria and move easily between Syrian and Iraqi territories," he said, adding that efforts to extradite them "have not borne fruit so far."

Shahwani also said that the U.S. occupation has failed to crack the problem of broad support for the insurgency. The insurgents, he said, "are mostly in the Sunni areas where the population there, almost 200,000, is sympathetic to them." He said most Iraqi people do not actively support the insurgents or provide them with material or logistical help, but at the same time they won’t turn them in. One military source involved in the Pentagon debate agrees that this is the crux of the problem, and he suggests that new offensive operations are needed that would create a fear of aiding the insurgency. "The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving to the terrorists," he said. "From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation."

Pentagon sources emphasize there has been decision yet to launch the Salvador option. Last week, Rumsfeld decided to send a retired four-star general, Gary Luck, to Iraq on an open-ended mission to review the entire military strategy there. But with the U.S. Army strained to the breaking point, military strategists note that a dramatic new approach might be needed—perhaps one as potentially explosive as the Salvador option.

Michael Hirsh and John Barry
Jan. 8, 2005
With Mark Hosenball

© 2005 Newsweek, Inc


Chavez Joins Colombia Arrest Row

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez says he is convinced a Colombian guerrilla leader was kidnapped in his country.
He accused the Colombian police of lying when they say Rodrigo Granda was captured in a Colombian border town.

Mr Granda, described as the unofficial foreign minister of the Farc rebels, apparently disappeared on 13 December.

He turned up in police custody in Colombia two days later, and claimed he had been seized while he was staying in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas.

President Chavez says he smelt a rat from the beginning.

Now he says phone records appear to provide conclusive evidence that Mr Granda was kidnapped in Caracas and smuggled across the border to Colombia's Cucuta town.

According to President Chavez, a call was registered to Mr Granda's mobile phone in central Caracas just minutes before the reported kidnapping incident.

Another call was recorded some hours later from the Venezuelan side of the frontier.

'Violating sovereignty'

"There is no doubt, the Colombian police are lying. When they say Granda was captured in Cucuta, the Colombian police are lying," President Chavez said.

He suggested they had probably also been lying to the Colombian President, Alvaro Uribe.

Mr Uribe on Thursday dismissed the Farc leader's claims that he had been kidnapped in Venezuela.

Mr Chavez said his government is investigating reports that members of the Venezuelan security forces may have taken part in the alleged kidnapping alongside Colombian intelligence agents.

He vowed to take up energetically any violation of Venezuelan sovereignty.

"This is a serious situation... if the Colombian police really did violate Venezuelan sovereignty it will of course have an impact on our bilateral relations," he said.

But he insisted that rogue elements in both countries should not be allow to undermine the recent improvement in relations between the two countries.

Iain Bruce
BBC News, Caracas


Former Death Squad Man to Run Iraq

George Bush has chosen a replacement for Paul Bremer as governor-in-chief in Iraq. It is John Negroponte, the mastermind behind the death squads of Central America. Negroponte could give lessons to the most brutal dictatorships in the world on how to organise death squads, assassinate opponents and terrorise popular movements into submission.

He did all that during the US's dirty war in Central America in the 1980s when he was "ambassador" to Honduras. Now he is to become "ambassador" to Iraq in June. Don't let the innocent-sounding title fool you. He'll not be sorting out lost passports and traveller's cheques. Negroponte will lead the spies, "counter-insurgency squads", and the real political power in Iraq from the US "embassy".

Bush now admits that huge concentrations of US troops will remain in Iraq for many years. Even if the phoney "handover" to a US-picked puppet regime goes ahead on 30 June, US corporations will dominate the economy.The Pentagon will unleash repression from 14 military bases. The profits from Iraq's vast natural resources will flow to Bush's friends in the oil industry. Astride it all will be Negroponte, ruling from Saddam Hussein's former Republican Palace.

It was under the diplomatic cover of "ambassador" that Negroponte organised right wing death squads in Central America. They left tens of thousands of people dead in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua as they murdered to prop up pro-US dictatorships under President Ronald Reagan. The internationally respected New York Times credits John Negroponte with "carrying out the covert strategy of the Reagan administration to crush the Sandinista government in Nicaragua" during his tenure as US ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985.

He oversaw the growth of military aid to Honduras from $4 million to $77.4 million a year. Much of that money was funnelled to the death squads in neighbouring Nicaragua and El Salvador. In early 1984 two US mercenaries, Thomas Posey and Dana Parker, contacted Negroponte, stating they wanted to supply arms to the Contra death squads in Nicaragua. Documents show that Negroponte connected the two with a contact in the Honduran military.

Other documents uncovered a scheme of Negroponte and the then vice-president George Bush Sr to funnel Contra aid money through the Honduran government. Negroponte concealed murder, kidnapping and torture by a CIA equipped and trained Honduran military unit, Battalion 3-16. According to the Baltimore Sun the unit "used shock and suffocation devices in interrogations. Prisoners often were kept naked and, when no longer useful, killed and buried in unmarked graves."

The death squads in the tiny country of El Salvador murdered 40,000 in one year alone. They included archbishop Oscar Romero, gunned down while he performed mass. Negroponte personally covered up the murder of 32 Salvadorean nuns who fled to Honduras in 1981. His friends in the death squads tortured them then crammed them into helicopters from which they were tossed to their deaths. Everything that Saddam Hussein's regime stood accused of was unleashed by Negroponte. Human rights organisations lost count of the rapes and tortures. They reported how the Contras would cut off women's breasts in Nicaragua. Negroponte had learnt his trade in Vietnam. There the Pentagon used chemical weapons which continue to poison the soil today.

At the US embassy in Vietnam he coordinated pro-US death squads from 1964 to 1968. They, along with indiscriminate military force, were the US's response to a popular independence movement. From 1969 he was aide to Henry Kissinger, who oversaw the saturation bombing of Vietnam and the extension of the war into neighbouring Cambodia and Laos. Incredibly, Negroponte was so hawkish that Kissinger sacked him in 1973 when it became clear the US would have to negotiate with the Vietnamese liberation movement. But Bush has rehabilitated the monster.

"The idea that someone hand in glove with the Contras should take over as effectively the colonial administrator in Iraq would be astonishing were it not for what we have come to expect from Bush's White House," says Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop the War Coalition. It will inflame the already growing resistance in Iraq."

There is only one way to stop the Bush gang bringing the slaughter of Central America and Vietnam to Iraq and the wider Middle East. It is, in the words of veteran peace campaigner Bruce Kent, for "all foreign soldiers to leave Iraq" and to give the country back to its people. Twenty years ago every member of the New Labour cabinet opposed Negroponte's murder gangs. Now they and their supporters are on the same side as the godfather of the death squads against the Iraqi people.

Kevin Ovenden | 21.04.2004 21:11 | London

SEE ALSO, http://www.newsmakingnews.com/death_squads.htm